An expanded Arizona State University financial aid program aims to more than triple the number of incoming freshmen receiving money for college.
Raising the income eligibility from $25,000 to $60,000 will enable more students to apply for the mix of funds to pay for school. All the student must pay for is the contribution as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
“Their goal is to get the family’s contribution as close to zero as they can,” said Payson High School guidance counselor Don Heizer. The deadline for priority consideration is Feb. 1. Students can apply after that date, but acceptance is limited to funding availability.
ASU announced the expanded financial aid program in May, and renamed it the President Barack Obama Scholars Program. The president wants the country to again boast the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
“Our mission coincides with the education goals enunciated by President Obama,” said President Michael Crow in a press release. “To remain globally competitive, the United States must vastly increase the number of college graduates it produces, and the biggest obstacle to college attendance in America is not lack of academic ability, but rather insufficient family income.”
The program will pay for direct costs to academically qualified Arizona freshmen from families that earn under $60,000 annually. The expansion will allow 1,600 freshmen to take advantage of the program, up from 500.
By combining aid from various sources, including Pell Grants, scholarships and grants, ASU will cover the students’ direct costs for eight consecutive semesters. Covered expenses include room, board, books and supplies.
In Payson, 28 percent of students attend four-year colleges, and 46 percent attend two-year colleges after graduation.
Roughly 29 percent of the national population has earned a bachelor’s degree, which, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, places the U.S. 21st among the world’s most industrialized nations in college completion.
Arizona ranks 46th in the nation for four-year college graduation rates.
Studies show college graduates earn more in their lifetimes than those with just high school diplomas. Other studies show that boosting the college graduation rate could re-invigorate the economy.
Arizona has the largest community college system in the United States, said Heizer. “As a result, a lot of kids choose to go in that direction because it’s more economical.”
He added, “anytime we can open more opportunities for our young people to be able to compete in the global market, it’s going to be good for Payson, Arizona and the country.”